October 26, 2016

Isn’t Hillary Clinton’s Syria no-fly zone worse than Donald Trump’s lewdness?

ap_16284103255269Unsurprisingly, Sunday’s presidential debate opened with a question on Trump’s “locker room talk” scandal. Neither Trump nor his supporters raised any serious objection. It had to be asked and Trump handled it about as well as anyone could expect to handle his indefensible comments. There is even an argument for it being charitable to Trump to open the debate with it, allowing him to address it and get it out of the way, instead of it hanging over the debate like a Sword of Damocles, waiting to torpedo any momentum Trump might have built later in the evening. John King made exactly that argument for why he opened a presidential debate with a Newt Gingrich scandal back in 2012.

And while the “debate” never got far out of the gutter for long, the two candidates did manage to move on and discuss other issues, one of which is getting surprisingly little emphasis from the media or the public at large: the candidates’ positions on Syria and Russia. Here, we have one of the few genuine issues of substance upon which the candidates fundamentally disagree, one far more important than any idiotic statements either of them may have made when they thought no one was listening.

Clinton has stuck by her position that deposing the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria is a foreign policy priority for the U.S. She has not backed away from her support for a no fly zone over Syria, despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford’s unqualified statement that it would “require us to go to war” with Russia.

Read the rest at Rare…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Earth to Bill Weld: Trump’s foreign policy is more libertarian than Clinton’s

william_weld_by_gage_skidmoreLibertarian Vice-Presidential Nominee Bill Weld has a legitimate beef with the media. On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported Weld “plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks.” Weld denied that claim in an interview with Reason, adding, “No, somebody’s making that up,” in reference to a further claim by the Globe that Weld would henceforth be focusing exclusively on red states.

But libertarian talk show host Kennedy wasn’t entirely satisfied with Weld’s explanations, and with good reason. For while the Boston Globe and other media may have exaggerated or even distorted Weld’s statements, they didn’t just make all of this up out of thin air. Weld himself admits he has been less antagonistic towards the campaign of Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, since accepting the nomination.

Weld says he does not want to see Trump gain the White House because his “proposals in the foreign policy area are so wrongheaded that they’re in a class by themselves.” Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives may agree with him, but virtually no libertarians would. On the contrary, many libertarians ignore Trump’s many odious positions and support him precisely because his foreign policy is so much less hawkish than Clinton’s.

Even Weld’s running mate recognizes this. He’s said on numerous occasions, including during an interview with this writer, that he considers Clinton “a major architect of the conflict going on around the world.” He also said during that interview he agrees with Trump that the next U.S. president should sit down and negotiate with Russia, and went as far as to say he is willing to go “all the way down that road” regarding withdrawing troops from Europe, Japan, and Korea.

Weld has on occasion muddied the water on what “foreign policy proposals” consist of, lumping trade policy in with military intervention, possibly to justify his preference for Clinton. But that dog won’t hunt, either, as Clinton is as protectionist as Trump at the end of the day, with only superficial differences in emphasis and rhetoric. The real difference in foreign policy between Clinton and Trump is on military intervention and Trump’s stance most closely aligns with Johnson/Weld’s. If foreign policy is the chief measuring stick, Clinton is the worse of two bad choices for libertarians, not Trump.

To say Libertarians were skeptical of Weld at the party’s convention in May would be an understatement. Presidential runner-up Austin Petersen endorsed Gary Johnson during his concession speech, but refused to endorse Weld, who failed to gain the nomination on the first ballot. Kennedy’s openly hostile interview of Weld crystalized the accumulated frustration with Weld’s many disappointing statements (from a libertarian perspective) since then. Her charge that Weld was merely using the Libertarian Party for personal advancement may have been unfair. To his credit, Weld handled it well.

What is more concerning for libertarians is that Weld may truly believe his positions are libertarian, rather than merely “centrist” or “moderate Republican.” Contrary to Johnson/Weld rhetoric, libertarianism is not merely “fiscally conservative and socially accepting.” It certainly is not a combination of the “best from both sides” of the Democrat/Republican divide. It is a self-contained political philosophy with its own first principles, most of which depart completely from conservatism and progressive liberalism.

Neither Johnson nor Weld have demonstrated a firm grasp of those principles during the course of their campaign, leading them to positions most libertarians outright oppose. And while there is still a strong case for libertarians to support the ticket, Weld needs to come up with a more believable argument on why he’s #NeverTrump, rather than #NeverHillary. His foreign policy argument for Clinton makes no sense at all.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

It’s time to end the failed War on Terrorism

war_on_terror_montage1_800x581Another September 11 is upon us and the usual calls for “vigilance,” “resolve” and “remembrance” have begun. For Americans, this has become a quasi-religious event, with the kinds of rituals and communal utterances once reserved for holy days like Christmas and Easter. Except, in this case, it is not a call to love thy neighbor or one’s enemies, but to continue what can only be described objectively as another failed government “war.”

The War on Terrorism is as complete a failure as the War on Drugs. Both share the hallmark symptoms of all such government endeavors: continually increasing budgets, exploding proliferation of what is made war upon, increasingly harsh measures following each successive failure and enormous collateral damage.

At the center of both debacles is the same fundamental issue: the failure to recognize government intervention as the root cause of the problem itself.

The attack fifteen years ago was not the first terrorist attack perpetrated by foreigners on American soil, but it was by far the worst. And just as it does for so many other government-caused catastrophes, the public demanded the government “do something” about it, rather than stop doing the things that motivated the killers.

Or, maybe the public simply went along with the government-media complex’s unison exhortation for a “war on terror,” along with its promotion of the ludicrous ‘hate us for our freedom” explanation of the motivation behind the attacks. Never mind that every single terrorist ever captured and questioned by U.S. authorities – including those prosecuted for the 9/11 attack itself – have cited U.S. military intervention in the Middle East as their motivation.

The unwillingness to accept the perpetrators’ own words for the motivation behind their attacks is unprecedented in American jurisprudence. For any other crime, correctly identifying the motive is a key element of the prosecution’s case. Failure to prove a compelling motive can mean acquittal, even for a guilty defendant. Yet Americans show no interest in the motive for this crime, defaming anyone who talks about it for “blaming America.”

If a wife catches her husband with another woman and shoots him, nobody claims she hated him for his freedom. Acknowledging her true motivation is an integral part of proving her guilty. But for the War on Terror, like most government programs, common sense and logic doesn’t apply.

Regardless of whether one faces reality concerning the motive for 9/11, one thing is certain: terrorism has proliferated enormously since the government declared war upon it, just like drug use. It’s time to ask ourselves exactly what we hope to accomplish with another fifteen years of bombing, invading or sanctioning destitute countries full of people with nothing left to lose.

There are two possible reasons for continuing the “war:” deterrence and revenge. The former is the politically correct reason. The latter is not, but, let’s be honest with ourselves, just as real. When Americans post “never forget,” they are expressing a range of emotions, but among them is the same understandable anger that motivated Sam Houston’s soldiers who exclaimed “Remember the Alamo!” while visiting a merciless slaughter upon Mexican soldiers, even after the Mexicans began trying to surrender.

If revenge is the motivation, it has been accomplished. The 9/11 attackers killed approximately 3,000 Americans. The War on Terror has since killed millions of inhabitants of the Middle East, most of them as innocent as the Americans killed on 9/11. It has ransacked two entire nations, indirectly led to chaos in several others controlled by ISIS and other jihadist groups, and created the refugee crisis we now find ourselves dealing with. For fifteen years, every day has been 9/11 for populations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and several other Middle Eastern countries.

At some point, even Sam Houston’s soldiers stopped the slaughter.

As for deterrence, it should be obvious by now that those of us who always maintained that fighting a conventional war with bombers and ground troops does nothing to deter individual terrorist acts were right. This should be intuitive. How could a conventional army fighting a war thousands of miles away possibly do anything to deter terrorists like the Tsarnaev brothers, who cited those very wars as the motivation for their attacks?

An entire generation of Middle Easterners who weren’t even born on September 11, 2001 will turn fifteen years old tomorrow. They are approaching adulthood having lived their entire lives under the constant threat of death from above, with foreign troops of an alien culture patrolling their streets by day and kicking in their doors at night. Only a fool could expect anything but hatred, rational or not, from people in this situation.

Only a government could suggest this epic failure simply requires more funds spent on the same strategy to turn decades-long failure into success. It’s the same fairy tale taxpayers are told about education, poverty, or drugs. The dynamics don’t miraculously change nor the government become suddenly competent when it is fighting terrorism. But it does create even more lethal problems for those it purports to help.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Without Rand Paul It Isn’t a Debate, Trump or No Trump

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The big news from last Thursday’s Republican Presidential Debate on Fox News was the absence of what Meghan Kelly called, “the elephant not in the room.” Thanks to the ongoing feud between her and front runner Donald Trump, the latter was not on the stage. In what was largely treated as a footnote, Rand Paul was.

Several media have asserted the debate was more substantive without Trump, the issues having more space in the absence of his overpowering personality and the likely attention that would have been paid to his controversial style. But it wasn’t Trump’s absence that made this debate more substantive. It was Rand Paul’s presence. Without him, the last spectacle wasn’t a debate at all.

Debate moderators are television people. They are interested in whatever makes the best television and gets the highest ratings. The debate moderators on Thursday, echoing the larger media narrative, continually pushed the establishment vs. anti-establishment theme. That’s certainly a phenomenon in this election cycle, but it really means nothing in terms of policy.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to determine the difference, if any, between the candidates seeking the presidency. Without Rand Paul, there isn’t a difference to determine, not even with Trump. Trumps style might be different, but he’s a lot more like an establishment Republican than the media narrative would have one believe.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

There is nothing new about the neoconservatives

nothing new

Robert Eno of Conservative Review named Rand Paul the “standout of the night” after the December 15 Republican Presidential Debate on CNN. Eno laments that the mainstream media, including “conservative media pundits,” will proclaim Rubio the winner. Eno implies these pundits aren’t true conservatives, referring to a species of unicorn sought by millions of self-identified conservative voters.

Rand Paul himself has called out Rubio and other proponents of the U.S. military empire as failing to adhere to authentic conservative principles. The self-named “neoconservatives,” we’re told, are really progressives in Republican clothing, failing to promote the true conservative principles of small government, free markets and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Rand is right about nonintervention, but he’s wrong about conservatism. There is nothing new about the neoconservatives. The essence of conservativism itself is belief in the need for an all-powerful government that regulates every area of life domestically and dominates every other nation in the world. This has been the conservative worldview for thousands of years. It has never changed.

Conservatives see the world as Thomas Hobbes did. Human nature is so depraved that the government must be powerful enough to “keep them in awe.” Like other enlightenment philosophers, Hobbes saw the relationship of nations to one another as virtually identical to the relationship between individual people. They are all in a de facto state of war unless one nation dominates the rest.

This explains the otherwise puzzling compulsion by generations of U.S. politicians to interfere in the affairs of destitute Third World countries thousands of miles away. Just as individual liberty within society is a threat to the commonwealth, self-determination by any individual nation is a threat to the world order. The “domino theory” offered as justification for the Korean and Viet Nam Wars was firmly rooted in Hobbesian conservatism. So was the British Empire.

Many conservatives would object and point to Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk as representing the true tenets of conservatism. There’s only one problem: Burke and Kirk agree with Hobbes on just about everything.

Hobbes, Burke and Kirk all deny the existence of natural, inalienable rights. Like Hobbes, Burke says that man in the state of nature “has a right to everything,” meaning there can be no rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Rather than “to secure these rights,” according to Burke, governments exist so “the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection.”

The only disagreement between Hobbesian “centralizers” and Burkean “constitutionalists” is on how government power should be distributed. The Hobbesians believe the sovereign power can never be safely divided. It must reside in one place, preferably in one man. Hobbesians in American history include Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and George W. Bush.

The Burkeans believe the opposite. As the politicians have the same dark nature, they must be thwarted, too. Burkean conservatives in American history include John Adams, Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater.

Here’s the rub. While Burkean constitutional conservatives want power divided, they still believe 100% of the power resides somewhere in the government. If the federal government isn’t going to regulate a particular area of life, then the state or municipal government should. Or the town government. Or your local school board. No area of life remains unregulated.

Similarly, the two conservative camps have disagreements on foreign policy, but not on principle. “Old Right” conservatives like Robert Taft may have argued against war, but Taft’s chief argument against participation in NATO was his fear it would concentrate too much power in the executive, although he hints at the non-aggression principle in passing:

“Under the Monroe Doctrine we could change our policy at any time. We could judge whether perhaps one of the countries had given cause for the attack. Only Congress could declare a war in pursuance of the doctrine. Under the new pact the President can take us into war without Congress.”

Contrary to the beliefs of a lot of well-meaning people, individual liberty, limited government and free markets are the antithesis of conservatism and always have been. Mercantilism is the economic system of conservatism; empire its natural foreign policy.

The American Revolution was very much a libertarian revolution against a Hobbesian, mercantilist and militarist empire. The ensuing struggle between Federalists and Jeffersonians was likewise a struggle between conservatism and libertarianism, respectively.

As inconsistent as he sometimes was in practice, Jefferson’s thinking and writing remained consistent on this point throughout his life. He repeatedly cited the libertarian principle that government should “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free” in describing the limits of government power.

His foreign policy was mostly libertarian as well. Unlike President Obama, he really gutted the military, cutting its budget by over 90% and largely dismantling the navy (the army was already disbanded when he took office). His stated purpose was to make the navy a purely defensive force, incapable of foreign adventures.

Like millions of self-identified conservatives, Rand Paul is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. He’s trying to see libertarianism as a subset of conservativism, just as Reagan did. It isn’t. It’s no surprise that even his attempt to portray himself as an authentic, Old Right conservative has failed. Trying to blend conservatism and libertarianism leads one into all sorts of self-contradictory positions.

It’s no coincidence that enthusiasm has peaked at those moments when Paul has taken the purely libertarian positions of his father, as he did filibustering drone strikes on American citizens or the Patriot Act. The marketplace of ideas is telling him something.

There is an intuitive libertarian instinct in everyone. The desire to live and let live and use force only in response to aggression is quite literally the “law of nature,” as Locke wrote over three hundred years ago. There are millions of Americans who believe it, but have it philosophically jumbled with the antithetical tenets of conservatism.

Rand Paul may be one of them. Or, he may believe the only way to make America more libertarian is by appealing to conservatives within the political process. Either way, he’s wrong.

Americans are starving for something besides conservatism or liberalism (as it’s defined today). A lot of them just don’t know it. Rand Paul could do the most good by taking his father’s ideas a step farther and rejecting conservatism altogether. It’s a dead end for the liberty movement, just as it always has been.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

San Bernardino and Paris Shootings the Latest Proof: Conventional War Does Nothing to Deter Terrorism

1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_awayMarcio Rubio is running a television commercial in which he says, “What happened in Paris could happen here.” He seemed prescient in retrospect following the tragedy in San Bernardino last week.

Whether radical Islamists want to kill us “because we let women drive,” as Rubio contends, or because of decades of nonstop political and military intervention in their countries is another story. Ultimately, one cannot solve this problem unless one understands what has caused it.

For the past fifteen years, the Unites States has tried to solve it with conventional warfare. It is accepted without question that, whatever else the intelligence community or other security apparatus are doing, waging conventional war on Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban or other Islamic paramilitary groups in the region is a necessary and effective way of deterring Islamic terrorism in the United States.

After fifteen years, it’s time to question that dubious assumption.

The answer has always been intuitive to me and I doubt I’m alone. Sending 140,000 soldiers to fight a conventional war in the Middle East does absolutely nothing to make it harder for two guys in Boston to bomb a foot race or a guy and his wife to shoot up a government building. How could it?

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

We Need to Really Gut the Military

cracked-american-flag-jpgU.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the Harvard Kennedy School Tuesday that Americans will be grappling with violent extremism for generations to come. If that feels like déjà vu, you’re not imagining things. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schisslersaid the same thing – in 2006.

Schissler was expressing concern at the time over wavering public support for a war that had already lasted longer than WWII. His concern was warranted. The Republican Party had just suffered a shellacking in the mid-term elections, largely due to public dissatisfaction with “neoconservative” foreign policy. They would lose the White House two years later for largely the same reasons.

American voters may have believed they “threw the bums out,” as Carroll Quigley might put it, but the foreign policy never changed. The Obama administration may have used different tactics, but it’s been even more interventionist than Bush’s. It’s certainly intervened in more countries.

Bush and the 2000s Republicans were called neoconservatives, but they weren’t. Their way of seeing the world is classic conservatism, straight out of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes not only saw all individuals, but all nations, in a de facto state of war with each other, in the absence of some overwhelming external force “keeping them in awe.”

This was the inspiration for the British Empire, which sought to “civilize” the world by force of arms. It eventually bled itself dry, its biggest failures occurring on precisely the same ground the United States is bleeding on now.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Thought for the day: Why can’t the U.S. imitate Switzerland?

shutterstock_181475261-643x419Thought for the day: Here’s a compromise I’d be willing to make with the left on the USA imitating a European welfare state: We’d imitate Switzerland. That means:

  1. An extremely limited central government with very low central government taxation (about 11% of GDP)
  2. Each canton/state decides how generous its welfare benefits will be and taxes its citizens accordingly. There is no national health care or centrally-mandated benefits.
  3. Firearms are not only considered a right, but a responsibility (although we wouldn’t mandate militia service – we have plenty who would volunteer)
  4. Nonintervention in foreign affairs in the proud Swiss tradition that even WWII was unnecessary (which it was)

I think that’s fair. How about it, lefties?

*Photo by Orbex

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Afghanistan Now Another Korea: How Did American Taxpayers Become Financially Responsible for the Liberty and Security of Every Soul on the Planet?

anotherPresident Obama announced Thursday that the present deployment of 9,800 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan throughout the remainder of his term as president. The president cited the “safe haven” narrative to justify changing his former plan to withdraw from the war-torn nation in 2016.

“As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” Obama said. “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.”

A few days earlier, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told Morning Joe, “I think Afghanistan, as long as we stick with them, and we continue with the current program, and continue to resource that appropriately, I think Afghanistan will turn out ok.” When asked what “Ok” means, Milley gave substantively the same answer.

This is important, because it attempts to establish that U.S. military operations in the Middle East are somehow protecting the lives, liberty or property of American taxpayers. Supposedly, having “safe haven” camps to train and “radicalize” new terrorists is an essential element in the ongoing jihad against the United States.

It’s a convenient story, but it isn’t remotely true. That terrorists need to be “radicalized” in overseas camps before they’ll commit terrorist attacks in America wasproven demonstrably false by the Tsarnaev brothers in 2012. U.S. authorities tried desperately to establish the elder Tsarnaev had joined a militant group in Dagestan before plotting to kill innocent people in Boston, but failed. It turned out he had been radicalized right here in the USA.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…


Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Why Can’t Russia and China Help Police the World?

n-PUTIN-largePresident Obama today announced his administration’s reluctant agreement to work with Russia and Iran to defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Middle East. This will no doubt be met with howls of “Weakness!” and “leading from behind” by Mr. Obama’s Republican detractors.

We may even hear the tired “appeasement” argument trotted out regarding both Russia’s and Iran’s supposed ambitions to expand their territories.

Republicans have consistently criticized Obama for not being aggressive enough on the world stage and for pulling back too early from Iraq and Afghanistan. With the emergence of ISIS, the GOP has seized the opportunity to quash more reasonable foreign policy positions from candidates like Rand Paul and push for sharper increases in military spending and even more aggressive foreign intervention.

The argument we hear repeatedly from Republican presidential candidates is that Obama has “eviscerated the military” and “led from behind.” If the United States is not “engaged” (i.e., bombing or invading) in all crises at all times in every part of the world, emerging powers like Russia or China are going to fill the resulting vacuum. That raises an obvious question:

So, what?

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…


Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.